African Bamboo is a forestry, wood, and bio-energy company located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, among Africa’s largest reserves of bamboo. African Bamboo develops innovative applications for bamboo, particularly for industrial and commercial uses. The company was established in 2012, as a subsidiary of Fortune Enterprise PLC which, since 1961, has been a manufacturer of wood and metal products in Addis Ababa.
In Ethiopia, there are more than one million hectares of bamboo. Recognized as a fast-growing and largely sustainable raw material, there is an increasing global demand for bamboo as a wood substitute for a variety of construction and furnishing applications. However, bamboo resources are often poorly managed. Most in the industry have limited knowledge of modern value-added processing techniques, which limits their earning potential.
African Bamboo is developing an environmentally friendly bamboo thermal modification process called ThermoBoo. Through this chemical-free process, decay factors such as rot and insects are virtually eliminated, and the thermally-modified bamboo fiber can be further processed into sturdy panels that can be marketed to a range of domestic and international buyers. The ThermoBoo process involves the combustion of biomass dust—a technological approach that is completely new to Ethiopia. Through the project’s successful implementation of a pilot processing facility, African Bamboo envisions developing a replicable model that can lead to prospective business opportunities throughout the region.
The success of this project will lead to new opportunities for export, employment, and manufacturing in Ethiopia and the improvement of the livelihood of the local community through job creation by forming new micro and small enterprises for bamboo forest harvesting and transportation, bamboo forest thinning, and micro charcoal production from low quality bamboo culms. Once production starts, the farmers will receive a fair and stable income for the supply of bamboo and at scale, African Bamboo will employ 6,000 smallholder farmers. In addition to its socio-economic impact, bamboo cultivation of native species plays a significant role in reforestation by stabilizing soil. African Bamboo uses environmental impact assessments to ensure the continued promotion of bamboo’s environmental benefits, and the minimization of the company’s ecological footprint.
By the end of the Powering Agriculture Award in September 2017, African Bamboo had concluded the lease agreement at Hawassa Industrial Park for a facility of 16,500 m2 for its factory space for the manufacture and export of its bamboo-based composite boards. It has also completed testing, pre-certification and pre-labelling of the boards and defined mechanical, electrical and utilities requirements to start production. African Bamboo also concluded long-term supply agreements for the bamboo raw materials and bulk purchase agreements for all inputs. It has signed various sales contracts, letters of intent for investment and identified 120 buyers in Europe and United States. At full-scale production, African Bamboo expects to produce 600,000 m2 per year resulting in prospective annual earnings of Euro 2.5 million to 6,000 farmers. The abdication of the use of diesel fuel - which is the wide- spread practice in Ethiopia - and its replacement by biomass residues generated during the production process will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by a certifiable amount of 16,700 tCO2e per year.